Oh, I know what
you're thinking...how could the generally sad face of country music
ever fit into the partyzone that is the 12 days of Christmas. The
truth, of course, is that for many Christmas is not all about
mulled wine and hangovers and country music offers an escape from
the tinsel choking rattle of another round of 'the Best Christmas
In The World, Volume 17'.
Christmas is also a
time to take stock so that is probably why the genre that seems to
base itself on standing back and thinking about life should have a
rich history in Christmas material. So while melodrama and lost
love appear to be the pillars on which the genre hangs its Stetson
there are times when the odd sleigh bell gets a look in.
What you'll read
below is our overview of the major artists from the Country Music
world and their contribution to the Christmas soundtrack.
(and some Kenny Rogers)
And could you ask
for a better start than the queen of country Dolly Parton who has
written more than her fair share of Christmas songs during her
9-to-5 shift? Dolly's first brush with the season of goodwill came
in 1982 as a result of her role in the 'The Best Little Whorehouse
in Texas' where she sang 'Hard Candy Christmas' on the soundtrack
along with several other of the actresses in the musical. Parton
would record her own solo version later that year where it became a
Top 10 Country hit.
From this successful
introduction to the world of Christmas it wasn't long before Dolly
went into festive overdrive with her 1984 album of duets with Kenny
Rogers titled 'Once Upon A Christmas'. The album was featured on a
TV Christmas special that December and spawned several successful
singles including 'A Christmas To Remember' and 'Christmas Without
You'. 'Once Upon A Christmas' became one of the best selling
Christmas album during the 1980's. And the formula would be
repeated by Dolly many times later on in her career.
alongside Fall Guy Lee Majors in the TV movie 'Smoky Mountain
Christmas' in 1986 and it gave her plenty opportunity to get
snuggled up beside the fire and belt out lots of festive classics.
Sentimental it might be but when it's cold outside movies of this
ilk are hard to top. It would be 4 years before Dolly released her
next Christmas record and 'Home For Christmas' duly arrived in 1990
and included lots of traditional standards like 'We Three Kings',
'Joy To The World' and 'I'll Be Home For Christmas'.
The man in black
forever pined for a white one each December so it is hardly
surprised that there were so many festive number sprinkled
throughout his discography. Not only that but for most of the
1970's Jonny Cash hosted a TV special each Christmas on the US
channel CBS. Cash recorded 4 Christmas album's in total, starting
out in 1963 with 'The Christmas Spirit' right the way through to
'Johnny Cash Country Christmas' in the early nineties. As well as
the obvious cover choices for his deep voice like 'Little Drummer
Boy' Cash was also disposed to writing originals for the season.
Many, like 'The Christmas Spirit', were spoken word affairs that
had Johnny getting dewy eyed and nostalgic for the real meaning of
Christmas. It is disarming and altogether uplifting to hear the man
who so often hid behind his large frame open up and reveal the
little boy inside.
legends don't get much bigger than Jim Reeves and before his
untimely death, at just 40 years, Gentleman Jim recorded 44 studio
albums. One of the highlights of his distinguished career was
undoubtedly his 1963 album 'Twelve Songs of Christmas'. The album
has past from generation to generation and while many may find it
hard to stifle his choices of garments (see the artwork) there was
no denying the suitability of his baritone for his take on 'Silver
Bells', 'An Old Christmas Card' and opener 'Jingle Bells'. And
while he might have specialised in slowing things down for
consumption by the open hearth songs like 'The Merry Christmas
Polka' and 'Senor Santa Claus' gave you all you needed to grab your
nearest relative for a festive shuffle.
Glen Campbell is one
of the most enduring country music singers the world has ever
known. He is probably best known for 'Rhinestone Cowboy' but with a
back catalogue of over 70 albums it would be difficult to list his
highlights within a couple of paragraphs. We must mention however
that he did play on the Beach Boys 'Pet Sounds' album and toured
with the group for a couple of years. Over his career Campbell has
released 3 Christmas albums, the first of which appeared in the
late sixties and the other two much later in his career in the mid
to late 1990's. 'That Christmas Feeling' was a 1968 release and
featured the single 'Christmas Is For Children' which number 7 in
the US charts. The album has a lovely sedate feeling with songs
like 'Old Toy Trains' and 'The Christmas Song' offering a genuine
winter glow to all comers. 1995's 'Christmas with Glen Campbell'
and 1998's 'Home For The Holidays' were both stuffed with covers of
traditional carols and holiday standards and while they have their
own particular Glen Campbell charm they are not anywhere near the
pantheon of great Christmas records.